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Psychiatry Res. 2007 Aug 30;152(2-3):113-20. Epub 2007 Apr 25.

Dissociation of emotional decision-making from cognitive decision-making in chronic schizophrenia.

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Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, South Korea.


Recent studies have examined the decision-making ability of schizophrenic patients using the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). These studies, however, were restricted to the assessment of emotional decision-making. Decision-making depends on cognitive functions as well as on emotion. The purpose of this study was to examine the performance of schizophrenic patients on the IGT and the Game of Dice Task (GDT), a decision-making task with explicit rules for gains and losses. In addition, it was intended to test whether poor performance on IGT is attributable to impairments in reversal learning within the schizophrenia group using the Simple Reversal Learning Task (SRLT), which is sensitive to measure the deficit of reversal learning following ventromedial prefrontal cortex damage. A group of 23 stable schizophrenic patients and 28 control subjects performed computerized versions of the IGT, GDT, SRLT and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST). While schizophrenic patients performed poorly on the IGT relative to normal controls, there was no significant difference between the two groups on GDT performance. The performance of the schizophrenia group on the SRLT was poorer than that of controls, but was not related to IGT performance. These data suggest that schizophrenic patients have impaired emotional decision-making but intact cognitive decision-making, suggesting that these two processes of decision-making are different. Furthermore, the impairments in reversal learning did not contribute to poor performance on the IGT in schizophrenia. Therefore, schizophrenic patients have difficulty in making decisions under ambiguous and uncertain situations whereas they make choices easily in clear and unequivocal ones. The emotional decision-making deficits in schizophrenia might be attributable more to another mechanism such as a somatic marker hypothesis than to an impairment in reversal learning.

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